When the Young Adult Ministry Network (YAMN) met for the first time in 2004, it was made up of 33 people from 29 dioceses. They agreed to come together in a year’s time, to keep the momentum going.
The momentum was still there when they met from September 23-25 in Denver. With 140 young adults and young adult ministers from 70 dioceses, including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Taiwan, the number of attendees was more than four times that of the 2004 meeting.
The work of those who returned home to their diocese from last year’s meeting strengthened the ministry with young adults that the national church is supporting prayerfully and financially, said the Rev. Douglas Fenton, staff officer for Young Adult and Higher Education Ministries.
Fenton’s office asked each diocese to send one young adult and one young adult minister to the conference. Those who attended came from diverse backgrounds and programs, ranging from parish young adult groups to diocesan young adult initiatives and campus ministries. The conference gave them all an opportunity to connect with one another.
It was inspiring, said Katie Knoll, an undergraduate at the University of Kansas and a representative from the Diocese of Kansas, to see how much work and dedication people put forth because they have faith in [young adult] ministry.
“Particularly helpful to me was the opportunity to meet and form relationships with other young clergy and lay-folk who not only want to do ministry with young adults but, being young adults themselves, are committed to translating the gospel of Jesus Christ and the catholic tradition of the Episcopal Church into the reality of 20- and 30-somethings,” said the Rev. Greg Syler, who works with young adults at the Church of Our Saviour in the Diocese of Chicago.
“Lots of times in the church we create ministries out of fear and anxiety,” remarked Ewart Jones, a member of the network coordinating committee from the Diocese of Texas, at the beginning of the meeting. “I’m here to tell you that this is not one of those times. We’re here to create ministries in abundance and celebration.”
The Young Adult Ministry Network was created in 2004, as part of a funding initiative from the 2003 General Convention. The network’s purpose was to build connections among diocesan representatives working in young adult ministry. The first network meeting identified three priorities: developing resources of people, materials and programs, facilitating relationships among people doing young adult ministry, and advocating for young adults in the life and structures of the church. To further these goals, each representative at this year’s meeting was asked to join one of three working groups: Resources, Relationships, or Advocacy.
“The way to keep young adults involved in the life of the church is give them leadership roles. Empowering the young to make decisions about where our church is going is important so they don’t feel like they are just along for the ride,” said Carlton Allen, a facilitator for the Advocacy group from the Diocese of Northern California.
With that in mind, the Advocacy group focused on how young adults can become leaders in the church on all levels and how the network can communicate effectively to bishops and clergy the work of young adults and young adult ministries.
The Resources group explored how they can share programs and information with one another and those interested in beginning a young adult ministry at the parish or diocesan level. Members of the group left the conference with a number of plans to improve the information available to young adult ministers, including creating a database of young adult ministers and programs, developing a communication plan to advocate for young adult ministry in the Episcopal Church, and developing a statement of purpose for young adult ministry in the Episcopal Church.
“I hope the Resources group can pull together program models, sample calendars, recruitment strategies and pretty much anything else young adults can use to build a ministry in their own parish,” said Jill Brown, who leads a young adults group at St. Columba’s in the Diocese of Washington. “If people don’t have to reinvent the wheel, they may have more energy to get these groups off the ground.”
In addition to organizing and encouraging national Young Adult gatherings, the Relationships group will also focus on establishing regional relationships and utilizing the national website and YAMN listserv to form relationships and share information. The next national gathering of young adults will be the Young Adult Festival, which will be held during General Convention in June 2006.
“Our goal in addressing relationships is to enable us to know that we are all connected in this ministry within the church and beyond. We are seeking to find continued avenues to strength our ministry and support of each other through our relationships in the Network,” said Carol Taylor, one of the Relationship group facilitators and a representative of the Diocese of East Carolina.
Many people left the conference as part of committees or groups that aim to help strengthen young adult ministries throughout the church. “It was a wonderful reminder, said one attendee, that I am not alone in my efforts to support young adults in my parish, because I have the encouragement and resources of the wider church.
Visit http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/youth-ministries: for more information about the Young Adult Ministry Network and resources available for Young Adult Ministries.